Tag: Environment

Trump administration starts push for more offshore drilling

A brown pelican outlined against the sun setting over Lemon Bay in Englewood Florida. The Trump administration wants to open parts of the eastern Gulf of Mexico for drilling, which would threaten ecosystems and tourism. @bberwyn photo.

Prospects for new executive order are unclear and legal challenges await

Staff Report

Donald Trump’s retro administration is taking another step backward by attempting to re-open parts of the Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific oceans, as well as the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, for offshore oil drilling. The executive order announced by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke requires the the department to conduct a five-year review of the existing program for  oil and gas development on the Outer Continental Shelf.

That could potentially reverse actions taken under President Obama to restrict some offshore drilling, although the feds will have to show scientifically that new offshore drilling is justified economically and can be done without harm to the environment. Legal challenges would also raised to any new proposals to lease areas off the coasts of the U.S. More drilling would also add more heat-trapping greenhouse gas pollution to the atmosphere. Continue reading “Trump administration starts push for more offshore drilling”

Advertisements

Sea level rise overwhelming some coral reefs

A sea turtle swims lazily along a coral reef in Hawaii, trailed by tropical fish. (Photo by Kosta Stamoulis, courtesy Oregon State University via Flickr.)

Seafloor erosion outpacing expectations

Staff Report

Coral reefs aren’t just threatened by pollution, ocean acidification and over-heated ocean temperatures. In some places they are being undermined by erosion of the seafloor, U.S. Geological Survey scientists said in a new study that looked at reefs in Florida, the Caribbean and Hawaii.

In the five study sites, the reefs can’t keep pace with sea level rise. As a result, coastal communities protected by the reefs are facing increased risks from storms, waves and erosion.

The degradation of reefs and the subsiding seafloor go hand-in-hand, as sand and other sea floor materials have eroded over the past few decades. In the waters around Maui, the sea floor losses amounted to 81 million cubic meters of sand, rock and other material – about what it would take to fill up the Empire State Building 81 times, the researchers calculated.  Continue reading “Sea level rise overwhelming some coral reefs”

Alaska’s senators want more offshore drilling in Arctic waters

GOP assault on the environment continues

Alaska’s GOP senators say drill, baby drill in waters off their state’s north coast.

Staff Report

Environmental protections are under attack on every front and the far North is no exception. Alaska’s senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both Republicans, appear willing to risk fragile ocean environments for a few more petrodollars, so they’ve opportunistically introduced a bill that would expand oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Ocean and Cook Inlet, where a recent gas leak persisted for several months, according to InsideClimate News.

Senate Bill 883 seeks to reverse protections established by President Obama in Dec. 2016 and force the Department of the Interior to quickly approve new oil and gas leasing.

“It’s not possible to drill safely in the Arctic, as we just saw from the leaking oil and gas well on the North Slope,” said Miyoko Sakashita, ocean programs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This legislation’s nothing more than a giveaway to oil companies. It’ll hurt Alaska’s healthy habitat and endangered wildlife.” Continue reading “Alaska’s senators want more offshore drilling in Arctic waters”

Study tracks startling salinization trend in U.S. lakes

Road salt, development blamed for spiking chloride levels

Water quality in freshwater lakes near roads where salt is used is rapidly deteriorating. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Lakes from New England to the Midwest are getting saltier from the massive use of chemicals to melt ice on roads, as well as from urban development. Under the current trend,  many North American lakes will surpass EPA-recommended chloride levels in 50 years, spelling trouble for aquatic ecosystems.

The majority of the lakes (284) were located in a North American Lakes Region that includes Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Ontario, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin. Continue reading “Study tracks startling salinization trend in U.S. lakes”

Atlantic Ocean warmth melts sea ice from below

Mixing waters may hasten arrival of ice-free Arctic Ocean summers

Arctic sea ice
Arctic sea ice is being melted by intrusions of warmer Atlantic Ocean water. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

In yet another sign that the balance of Earth’s climate system is being perturbed by global warming, scientists are documenting how a steady intrusion of water from the Atlantic is undermining sea ice in the Arctic Ocean.

The research, led by Igor Polyakov, a professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks International Arctic Research Center, shows that the relatively warm  Atlantic Ocean water is a surprisingly powerful contributor to Arctic sea ice decline. Continue reading “Atlantic Ocean warmth melts sea ice from below”

March 2017 ends up as 2d-warmest on record for Earth

U.S. and northeastern Eurasia were the hot spots for the month

Surface air temperature anomaly for March 2017 relative to the March average for the period 1981-2010. Source: ERA-Interim. (Credit: ECMWF, Copernicus Climate Change Service)

Staff Report

There was no let-up in the years-long global heatwave last month, as March ended up being the second-warmest ever, just 0.10 degrees Celsius behind the record warmth of March 2016. According the European Copernicus Climate Change Service, February and March 2017 showed most significant warm anomaly since April 2016, when the mega El Niño was fading away. Continue reading “March 2017 ends up as 2d-warmest on record for Earth”

Sunday set: Wien scene

City sights …


A short photographic stroll through a city that consistently ranks near the very top worldwide for quality of life.  Vienna’s coffee houses and parks are definitely part of its charms, but it’s also a European hub science, culture, literature and tech innovation. And there are connections to my old stomping grounds in Colorado. For example, I spent several years following the story of how parasitic whirling disease wiped out most of Colorado’s rainbows, and how biologists were working to restore the popular game fish with a population resistant to the disease. Then last summer, as I was working on a story about a massive fish die-off in the Yellowstone River, my research led me to an Egyptian-born research scientist at the University of Vienna who has been studying various parasitic trout diseases, and linking them with global warming. Turns out that Mansour El-Matbouli also was an instrumental figure in the efforts to breed the strain of rainbow trout that are resistant to whirling disease, and that he had worked closely with aquatic biologists in Colorado that I also had interviewed for my stories in Colorado. We’re facing global environmental challenges, and they require a global and science-based response. It’s a small world.